Casey Williams primed for Australia game

Skipper Casey Williams acknowledges the Silver Ferns must lift their game another couple of gears when they face a wounded Australian side in Sydney on Sunday.

New Zealand have opened the Quad Series tournament with comfortable victories over England and South Africa but would have been disappointed with their high turnover rate and lack of cohesion through the court in both games.

The world champion Australians will be hungry for revenge on their home court, after a 2-1 Constellation Cup series loss to the Silver Ferns last month.

Williams admitted the Silver Ferns had been patchy in their first two games and said they would need to be at the top of their game and cut down on their error rate to continue their recent success over the Diamonds.

"It's going to be a huge step up (from the first two games). I think the girls know that and we're aware things aren't just going to happen for us," Williams said. "They will be hungry. We have that rivalry between us. I think it's going to be a great game. We're ready for it."

Australia will be without injured defenders Laura Geitz and Julie Corletto and classy goal attack Natalie Medhurst but, with so much depth in their ranks, will be as formidable as always.

Silver Ferns' coach Waimarama Taumaunu has mixed her squad around during the first two games of the Quad Series but, will no doubt, put out her first choice seven against Australia.

That is likely to see Kayla Cullen, who has deputised at centre in the second half of both games, line up in the midcourt, alongside vice-captain Laura Langman at wing attack, with Anna Harrison back in the wing defence bib.

Cullen has made a strong impact for the Silver Ferns off the bench in the Quad Series and Williams backed the youngster to shine against Australia, if she was presented with the opportunity.

"She's doing really well. She's learned that position very quickly," Williams said. "I think she's doing a great job. She's very athletic and very strong. She's a tall midcourter and feeds the circle well. It's a good strength to have her in the middle."

Williams is still easing her way back from a knee injury, which saw her miss the Constellation Cup series win.

She gained court-time against South Africa and England, but was still taking time to find her feet and be her usual menacing self in the defensive circle.

"It's taking a little bit longer than I would like, but I'm hoping it's going to be like riding a bike, and it comes along with each game," she said.

The Silver Ferns took a nine-goal lead into halftime against England on Wednesday night but went off the boil in the third quarter, following a raft of changes at halftime.

Their class eventually shone through in the final 15 minutes of play, where they outscored England 20-10 to win by an 18-goal margin.

Taumaunu said it was always going take time for new combinations to function smoothly in the second half and was pleased her team were finally able to put it together in the last quarter.

She was rapt with the Silver Ferns' start to the game, where they posed all sorts of problems defensively for England in the first quarter, limiting them to just five goals. At times, their precision on attack was lacking, though, which led to some stray passes in the first half.

"The error rate remained higher than I would have liked," Taumaunu said. "It came back down in the second half and I was pretty happy with how we stepped up in the fourth (quarter)."

The Southland Times